The other side of the street

A reciprocal guest post from writer and friend Alienora Taylor. As always, she pulls no punches.

11591371-white-shoes-of-a-pedestrian-about-to-step-over-a-road-line-marking-to-get-to-the-other-side-of-the-s

 

As a society, we become ever more desensitised, cynical and, at heart, disempowered. This concerns me hugely. Let me give you a very recent, and concrete, example. Yesterday, I posted a piece on my blog concerning a form of abuse: The cyber version, from which I have now suffered thrice. At the same time, my friend, Sue Vincent, posted her own, very moving and disturbing, piece about emotional abuse.

To be fair, we both got some positive, kind and supportive responses – from men and women – but I was shocked by the silence which followed our corporate appeal. I was particularly worried by a subsection of the possible spectrum of response – one which I am increasingly aware of: The need, by some people, to trivialise the experiences of other people. Thus, I got, from a couple of people, variations on the, ‘It’s nothing. Happens all the time. You are over-reacting!’ theme.

Now, I am sorry if this next bit sounds a tad strident – but, really! The fact that something allegedly ‘happens all the time’ does not make it all right. The fact that men can post pictures of their private parts on line, in an attempt to intimidate women, should not, in my view, be taken lightly, or dismissed as, ‘just one of those things’.

Is this not precisely the kind of mindset which allowed us to turn a blind eye to the burgeoning evidence of the Holocaust seventy years ago? And is it not, also, the kind of semi-deliberate myopia which allows us to ignore so much suffering in the world today?

The tragic thing is this: Abuse, death, genocide, war – have all become cheap media currency in a sense. Day after day, week after week, we are bombarded by the most appalling images of the depths to which the human imagination can sink. Sated by the ‘normal’, the loving, the kind; cynical in our response to all that is kind and positive in life, we increasingly look, for our kicks and our highs, to the perverted, the dark, the violent.

As Sue put is so eloquently in her post, we have developed this ghastly Someone Else’s Problem way of seeing life. Our psychic skin has become so thickened, and callus-ridden, and we so callous, that we will tie ourselves in knots to downgrade the horror, sneer at the tears of others and pretend that we cannot see what is really going on.

We have become a society all too ready to blame, to judge, to assume that people ask for the pain they experience in their lives. Compassion is becoming an outdated concept, almost a dirty word. There is more and more emphasis placed upon what I refer to as the Grow a Pair way of thinking: Castigated if you do not show a tough hide; punished if you do not get over a wound – whether it be physical or psychological – immediately. Our hospitals have an ever-speedier through-put of patients, in order to free up the beds for the next surge. Our schools have less and less tolerance and patience for the damaged, the less intelligent, the children whose spirits do not fit with the overall greyness of the modern educational tube.

We are very good at saying, with all the right emphases, ‘Oh, that’s awful!’ when apprised of a disaster, a personal crisis, a tragedy.

But, unless we are willing to put our metaphorical money where our actual mouths are, what the hell is the value of such shallow sympathy?

Easy to say, isn’t it? Costs us nothing but a few wrinkles of the lips, a little exercise of the tongue.

I do think, however, that much of this way of behaving stems from fear: Fear, often so deeply buried that we are not even aware of it. There is the very real terror of being hurt, or deprived of money/possessions/respect/friends/job.

Getting involved can be enormously stressful, and fear-inducing; it can be exhausting and, at times, depressing.

But, I think we humans form communities for a reason. We need that sharing, that caring, that willingness to be a large family of interconnected people. And its loss from our lives has been a global body-blow.

Twenty four years ago, when I was attacked, an elderly man literally walked by on the other side of the street. He did not come to my aid. I do not blame him, but I do think it is a potent metaphor in terms of our behaviour.

Perhaps he thought I was making a fuss about nothing.

It is very easy to see other people’s responses as over-reaction, and one’s own as legitimate, isn’t it?

But, every time we metaphorically stay on our side of the street, every time we dismiss someone else’s feelings or trivialise a friend’s suffering, we are contributing to the societal malaise of our time, and adding yet another epidermal layer of insensitivity.

And I don’t want to do that anymore. Do you?

 

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
This entry was posted in Life, Love and Laughter and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to The other side of the street

  1. Julie says:

    It is hard sometimes to know what to do in a situation. Is a couple fighting? Or is that how they interact normally? This week I saw a man and a woman walking down the street. They were probably in their early 20s. From a distance, it appeared to me that they might be arguing, their jesters implied it. As they walked directly across the street from my window, I also noticed they were laughing. I had been ready to call the neighborhood police patrol and grab Guinness and head outside to tell them to stop.

    I have stopped my car when kids look like they are picking on other kids. Called 911 when it looked like someone was driving drunk on the highway. Helped to capture a stray dog to find its home. I always wonder if these actions mean anything. They do to my conscience so I guess they do.

    Like

  2. slepsnor says:

    I really like reading your posts, so I nominated you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. He is a link to my post about the award and your nomination. Congratulations and I look forward to reading more of your posts.

    http://legendsofwindemere.com/2013/02/02/very-inspiring-blogger-award-part-2/

    Like

  3. Running Elk says:

    “But, I think we humans form communities for a reason. We need that sharing, that caring, that willingness to be a large family of interconnected people. And its loss from our lives has been a global body-blow.” Hear, hear.
    I do fear that in the last 50 years or so, we have completely lost what community is about. We have become disparite individuals living in close proximity; the things that cement community are no longer part of our everyday experience; the drawbridge to our castles are up, and the doors are securely barred. The victory of the I over the WE has turned our homes into lonely silent prisons. Often, we don’t even know the names of our neighbours.
    It is easy to understand, at some level. Few of us remain within the protection of the communities in which we were raised. “Mobile work force” is just the sweetened way of saying “people desperate to make a living somehow”, and in the process we find ourselves domiciled with strangers, few of whom may share the same values as we have taken for granted. There is suspiscion on both sides of the garden fence…
    When “something” does happen, we avert our eyes (whilst eagerly consuming a fictional expression of it via the electronic box in the corner), close our ears (or turn the volume up to avoid intruding on a “private matter”), or simply ignore the fact that there is another human being who may require our assistance.
    Sure, we get told to piss off and mind our own business more often than not. Sure there is an element of potential danger in getting involved. Sure, we really don’t want to get in the firing line of another’s aggressive behaviours. But I can’t quite figure how we have so readily surrendered our humanity in the process of becoming “independent”.
    The empathy, closeness, and support of genuine community remains alive within all our hearts… I feel we just need to open our heads to the possibility that what our hearts yearn for is the only thing which can truly empower us as individuals. And if that means losing a little of the “privacy” which modern society holds so precious… then so be it.
    (Sorry – way off topic… again!! 🙂 )

    Like

    • Echo says:

      Not off topic at all… this time 😉

      Thank you, H.

      Having lived in a ‘street house’ when I was first married, where everyone knew everything about each other, shared the outside toilet at the end of the street and strung our respective smalls out to dry above the cobbles, I agree with you. The community spirit has sadly become a rarity.

      Time, too, is so occupied by the demands of work and distance that we have little to spare for those outside our immediate circles.

      Yet I think you are right that there is something in us that seeks this sense of community.. hence the success of the social networks and forums. Where we feel we have neither the time, energy nor freedom to reach out to each other in reality, we do so over the internet, building and joining virtual communities.And while the net can be a wonderful and enriching addition to a life, as well as a fabulous means of keeping in touch, it is not the same as that intimacy between people who meet eye to eye.

      Like

  4. Thank you for Liking our post (and hopefully VOTING for Maggie#24 to increase homeless pet awareness): http://maggiemoosetracks.wordpress.com/2013/02/02/maggiemoose-saturday-pre-super-bowl-thank-you/
    We believe sharing the love, by living life with moose size pawsabilities, is the way to make pawsitive change. Thank you again! WOOF WOOF 🙂 🙂

    Like

  5. ps. Love the profile image. 🙂 🙂

    Like

  6. alesiablogs says:

    We have kindred spirits my dear.

    Like

  7. Pingback: The Curious Case of the Inspiring Blogger « The Consortium of the Curious

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.